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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Germs!

Here's a post I have been meaning to do since the start of flu season.

It's about germs, or more accurately, getting rid of germs. 

Honestly, getting rid of germs in your own house is not a huge deal unless you have someone exceptionally sick or frail lying around. 

But if you are cleaning for other people, especially if you are doing more than one client in a day, and especially if you are cleaning businesses that are open to the public, effective disinfection is a must, and that is simply not the norm in the cleaning business.

Watching cleaners rub germs all over clients' homes and businesses is another main reason I went into business for myself. I have seen companies specializing in medical offices and hospital cleaners both spread more germs than they clean. There are some very basic rules for ensuring that surfaces are properly disinfected, but virtually no homemakers or professional cleaners follow them.

Rule #1: Do No Harm


The first rule of getting rid of germs -- and that is what I mean when I say "disinfecting" -- is to clean them up where you find them without spreading them around. 

That means using clean equipment and fresh rags in every room. If you are scrubbing the tub, wash and sanitize the brush before you use it on the kitchen sink. For me, that means washing my brushes and buckets and wiping off my bottles with bleach water every night after work. And wiping them off with sanitizing wipes or disinfectant if I am going to use the same equipment for more than one client. (Of course I bring fresh brushes, rags and scrubby pads for each client. And if I need to use my own toilet brush, I bring a new one and leave it there.)

The other big germ-spreader is the mop bucket. Cleaners typically make a beeline from the front door to the bathrooms because those are the hardest rooms to clean. But it is rare to find a maid or janitor who will change the mop water and use a new mop for the rest of the floors. That means they are painting the rest of your house with the pee drips and other dirty stuff mopped up from your bathroom floor. You know you are in an establishment that cares about infection control if you see separate red equipment for bathroom cleaning in the janitor's closet. That is above and beyond what I do, but you will see me cleaning the bathroom last or using a separate mop and cleaning my bucket out afterward if I can't.

The same kind of care should go into cleaning the kitchen, which is typically the germiest place in the house. Yes, even moreso than the bathroom. Food preparation surfaces and countertops can carry all kinds of bacteria from meat and produce and must be disinfected thoroughly without spreading germs to new corners of the house. When you are cleaning the kitchen, you use a clean rag or three. NEVER use the dish rag or sponge that you keep next to your sink.


Rule #2: Use the Right Stuff



As excited as I get about the battery of cleaning chemicals I have chosen for JustClean, what you use is generally less important than how you use it. And just washing and scrubbing with even plain old soap will mechanically remove most germs on most surfaces.

This being the case, mild disinfectants like vinegar, borax water, tea tree oil and many store-bought cleaners are sufficient for cleaning your own germs in your own home, though I would follow professional standards for cleaning up after raw food and body wastes.

"Following professional standards" starts with using what is known as a registered disinfectant. Those are commercially prepared cleaners that have data showing what germs they kill and how fast they kill them and have been registered with the US Envonmental Protection Agency. 

Disinfectants kill things, namely microbes, so disinfectants by definition do not meet "green" standards. Any company that says it does green cleaning exclusively while performing institutional-quality disinfection is lying -- or at least misinformed. It is a technicality based on the definitions of disinfection and green, but, under current standards, disinfectants cannot be green.

Most of today's common disinfectants are pretty harsh and hazardous to humans, but there are a few benign bug-killers out there. Ones made with accelerated hydrogen peroxide or silver dihydrogen citrate have been shown to be very safe.

My favorite, and the kind that you can pick up in the grocery or health food store, are cleaners made with thymol, derived from the herb thyme. Seventh Generation has a thymol disinfectant that I have seen at the university Publix and Manna Grocery here.  Clorox has come up with some peroxide-based cleaners for home use, but I haven't studied up on them. I have used the wipes before, and one thing I can say is that they smell nice.


Rule #3: Clean, then Disinfect


That's right. Disinfecting is not the same thing as cleaning. Using a disinfectant is a two-step process, three steps if you count finding other things to clean while allowing the disinfectant enough time to work.

 First you have to clean the thing you want to disinfect, meaning you have to wipe the dirt off the outside of the toilet, scrape the toothpaste off the sink and scrub the soap scum out of the tub. If you try using a disinfectant on a visibly dirty surface, it is not going to kill germs like it is supposed to. Only after a surface is clean should you apply a disinfectant if actual disinfection is your goal.

And, once you spray everything down with disinfectant, you have to let it set a spell. Every disinfectant has a "dwell time," a specific number of minutes it needs to kill the number and kind of germs it says it does. Most cleaners, even bleach, require  a dwell time of about 10 minutes to do their job. So if a cleaner gets in and out of your restroom in 5 minutes, the room is guaranteed to have not been disinfected.

If you don't believe me or the company explainers I linked to, go ahead and look at the directions on a bottle of disinfectant. If you have a product that calls itself a disinfectant and says it kills a certain percent of certain germs, the directions will tell you to apply it to a clean surface. They will also tell you how long you have to wait before wiping to make sure the disinfectant does its job. (Aerosol sprays like the ones made by Lysol and Clorox may not have dwell times on the labels, but that is because they are designed to be sprayed in the air and on surfaces without wiping off.)


Friday, January 24, 2014

Give Me Your Junk

Another unadvertised service JustClean has been doing is limited junk haul-aways.

If you have old clothes, recyclables, hazardous materials, or small appliances and furniture, I will be happy to haul them away at no charge.

Junk makes cleaning hard, so I am delighted to help with anything that makes my job easier.

You have to pile up the items you want to get rid of for me, because I will not presume to know what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. And give me a warning before your appointment, so I can come prepared with boxes and extra trash bags.



The only caveat is that the stuff will go to the places that are convenient to me in my service area. So that means your clothes and household items will go to Temporary Emergency Services or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. And if they're really junk, they will go into the trash or one of the city's recycling drop-off points. If they are electronics or hazardous materials, I will try to hold onto them until the city does its special collection days, and I plan to advertise that as those days approach.

So far, I have only been trashing stuff and donating it to TES. So I know that TES has receipts that I can fill out for you. If the ReStore or any other place in town I end up going to does not have receipts, I will type you up a list in case you want to make a tax deduction out of your stuff.

The only limit to what I can haul off is what I can lift safely (up to 50 lbs.) and what I can fit in my little station wagon. So big furniture, mattresses and appliances are a no-go. I think some charities will come and pick those things up for you, but I don't know that for sure, so you will have to call around.

One other donation place I am familiar with is Hospice of West Alabama. They can always use individual-portion snack foods, drinks, personal care-type items and birdseed (their standard wish-list is here.).  It never occurred to me that I might have client castoffs to take there until today, when a commercial client was getting rid of a pile of coffee creamers and sugars and the like because nobody in the office drinks coffee these days. So if you somehow end up with bulk refreshment or toiletry castoffs, I know just what to do with them!

Right now, hauling stuff for a proper disposal really is no sweat off my back. The donation sites are in my neighborhood and or along my daily work routes. I am pretty sure that will always be free at JustClean.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Running Low on TP?

In case you're a business and didn't see or infer this info from my earlier household supply delivery post, here's what I have for commercial clients.

The "always on hand" items are always in my car when I go out to appointments. "Call ahead" ones are items I should have in stock but haven't needed yet, and so would have to run out and buy. If you want to keep any of the cleaners or equipment I use on site, I can leave you a bucket at no additional charge. If you want them for extensive use not by me (business or personal), I can order them or pick them up with my regular supplies and add the cost to your bill.

If you want me to keep your paper, trash bags and soap stocked, I need a good usage estimate from you or to do it at unit cost for a couple months to come up with a monthly price. Going by the size of the establishments I typically do, I'd ballpark the cost at $25 to $50 per month for most clients.



JustClean

HOUSEKEEPING BY KAREN

 Tuscaloosa, AL, 205-331-0422
www.JustCleanTuscaloosa.com

CommercialSupply Delivery

Janitorialsupplies available for regular delivery at agreed upon costs based on clientuse. One-time stocking available as needed at the unit price of each item.

Always on hand

Bathroomtissue.............................................. 75¢/roll
Paper towels ............................................   $1.75/roll
13 gallontrash can liners.................................. 25¢each
33 gallontrash can liners................................  25¢ each
Unscented orlemongrass glycerin hotel-size bar soaps 25¢ each

Callahead to request

Recycled bathroomtissue.................................... $1/roll
Recycled papertowels .................................. $2.50/roll
10-12 gallontrash can liners.......... $2.50/rollof 50, 25¢ each
55 gallontrash can liners.............. $2.50/rollof 25, 25¢ each
Recycled 10-12gallon trash can liners................... 25¢each
Recycled 55gallon trash can liners....................... 50¢each
Regular handsoap............................ $20/gal,$3.50 bottle
Foam hand soap................... $12/46 oz. refill,$3.50 bottle  


Allcleaners and equipment are always provided and are available for order for client’suse.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Oops.

Speaking of unmentionables, I have some tips for the mother of all unmentionables in the cleaning business: Breakage.

A person who cleans for a living touches or cleans around hundreds of fragile items each week.

Until recently, I personally went into the job with the attitude that probability dictates that things will get broken. You clean a hundred houses, you're going to lose at least one knickknack.

That's a reasonable attitude, but if that one knickknack happens to be an irreplaceable personal heirloom, telling the client that it was inevitable and buying something that looks like it is cold comfort.

In my time working for myself and other people, I have seen two approaches to avoiding breakage. The main one is to never touch anything fragile. That means letting dust collect around that giant antique vase on the floor and watching cobwebs form around the fine China dishes displayed on top of the cabinet. Many clients prefer that, and will point out items they don't want to be touched upfront. I have one client I do careful allergy-type dusting for who can't clean much herself, but she has a sentimental figurine shelf that she takes care of herself for that reason.

A second approach is to clean everything and pray a lot. That was always my approach. If you don't tell me not to clean it, I'll at least wave a duster at it every time. That works great most of the time. But every so often, there will be items that my gut tells me to give a wide berth. Nearly every time I don't, I find myself apologizing profusely and scrambling to make good. (And by every time, I mean I can count the casualties from five years of cleaning houses off and on on one hand.)

If you're a cleaner, or you are thinking about employing one, here are some general rules for spotting hazards. Avoiding putting your stuff in those situations can go along way to ensuring it makes it through cleaning day intact.

Location, location, location


There is a physical "danger zone" below knee-level and above eye-level. Anytime you have to reach to pick up or dust over an object, you risk knocking it over. Items displayed on the floor or on low surfaces where they are likely to be set on the floor when you are cleaning can get stepped on, knocked over or risk chips and breaks from being put down too fast on a hard floor. Even under the bed is a danger zone, as few cleaners want to be caught not cleaning under the bed, but it is not unheard of for them to poke a sweeper or broom under there without looking first (ahem).  Items that have to be awkwardly reached behind or between things are also in a danger zone. As are ones that you can't see the bottom of because they are above tippy-toes eye level.  Any flat surface that cannot be seen while standing on the floor is one that should not be touched without a step ladder. You can't know the shelf or ledge is empty until you physically look at it.

Balancing act


Precariously balanced things are another big minefield. My big example is a heavy flower pot or vase on a little wood or wire stand on the floor. Anytime the load is heavier than whatever it's sitting on, you have an unstable situation that can lead to a broken pot or broken stand. Even on a stable surface like a counter, a light dish holding heavy decorative stones or a potted plant won't withstand being picked up or scooted with the load on it.  Wall and stand displays for fragile things like dishes and sculptures are easy to accidentally knock down to begin with, so if they are not anchored and barely standing or hanging in place, they are likely to get knocked down, or even fall on their own when something nearby is moved.

 Traffic hazard


Delicate things in high-traffic and high-cleaning activity areas are another one. The bathroom is a big one. People can't help but decorate the sides of those big "garden" type bathtubs, for example. I have seen glass vases, seashells and candlesticks sitting on the edges of tubs that only the most standoffish cleaners wouldn't want to clear and wipe. The back of the toilet and the top of the medicine cabinet are two other places people like to decorate. Toilet tank lids are usually slightly rounded, and medicine cabinet tops are always well above eye level, so both need to be approached with extreme caution. Kitchens, window sills and entryways are other high-traffic, high cleaning action areas that are dangerous for fragile items.

Simply put, it is a housecleaner's job to handle all those situations. No house on Earth has all its fragile items in a locked China cabinet or on a chest-level whatnot shelf.  Odds are good that a commercial "quick clean" service will automatically bypass such situations unless the cleaners are expressly told that the areas need to be cleaned.  Even when a cleaner zips in and out with no intention of meticulously cleaning everything, your stuff is still subject to people bumping around and waving dusters and rags in the vicinity.

The best thing to do is be mindful, and keep valuables out of risky situations. For the cleaner's part, she or he has to be aware of all breakage hazards and ask for permission and use care when cleaning around precariously situated delicate things. Trust me, any client would prefer a spot of dust to a shattered family heirloom. If an item is that important and that fragile, the easiest route would be to ignore it and let the client keep it clean and move it around once in a while so you can dust. It's helpful for a client to note what's particularly valuable in his or her home, but a cleaner really must approach everything as though it cannot be replaced.

Here is a picture of what NOT to do: Never stick a duster, mop or vacuum hose somewhere you can't see. Every flat surface in a house can be home to breakable decorations and accessories. If you are going to wipe above eye level, you need to at least get up on a step ladder and survey the tops of everything before running a duster across them. Working in a jacket, or even a loose smock or apron is a bad idea also. As in a factory, loose clothing, jewelry and hair risk getting getting hung up on things, only in a home it's your valuables, not the worker's limbs, that are in danger.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Mention Your Unmentionables

Free delivery service for basic household products!

This is a new service I started providing for clients who have a tough time getting to the store, but I am offering it to anyone, whether you're disabled, too busy or just lazy.

The prices are my retail cost per unit, rounded up a few pennies to a couple dollars for easy numbers and to defray the cost of gas and sales tax.

I'm not selling sundries, I am bringing them to you as a part of my cleaning service. The in-stock supply costs are retail warehouse club prices, which are generally a little to a lot better than grocery store ones, especially for single units and small packages. The cost of the items I can order is the straight-up retail price I pay to get them from the manufacturer or supply house.

Here's the list. Please mention what you need when you make your appointment. In-stock items can be requested by phone anytime before your scheduled day.


JustClean

HOUSEKEEPING BY KAREN

Tuscaloosa, AL, 205-331-0422
www.JustCleanTuscaloosa.com

HouseholdSupply Delivery

Basicpaper and cleaning supplies delivered free during scheduled appointments. Costwill be added to your bill.

In stock now:

Bathroomtissue........................... 50¢/roll,$3.50 pack of 9
Paper towels................................................ 1.50/roll
Unscentedlaundry pods ................................... 25¢each
13-gallontrash bags ......................................... 15¢each
XL disposableunderwear................ 50¢ each,$15 pack of 32
Unscented orlemongrass glycerin logo soaps............ 25¢ each

Availableon request:

PURE unscenteddisinfectant........................... $15/ 32-*oz
SeventhGeneration thymol disinfectant ................  $4/32 oz
SeventhGeneration unscented dish soap............. $3.50/25oz
Procyon unscenteddegreaser concentrate............. $15/32 oz
Just G allpurpose cleaner concentrate ................. $25/32oz
Dr. Bronner’sunscented Castile soap ...... $12/16oz, $18/32 oz

Suggesteditems (specific brands as available)

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